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Gorillaz: Plastic Beach, in "Nothing Not New"

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Artist: Gorillaz

Title: Plastic Beach
Release date: March 9
Label: Parlophone/Virgin

The cartoon band Gorillaz have a new record called Plastic Beach, and it's pretty darn good. My only previous exposure to the band was the song "Feel Good Inc.," which I really liked for its Ray Davies-esque chorus and cool bass line. Come 2011, I'll mos def have to check out the band's past output.

Speaking of mos def, the rapper is one of the many stars collaborating with Damon Albarn of Blur on Plastic Beach. Others include Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, De La Soul, some guys from The Clash, Bobby Womack, Mark E. Smith from The Fall, and others.
The nearly hour-long record is a low-key affair, a sort of downbeat but infectious mishmash of dance-y pop and techno and hip-hop. The songs are actually all over the map musically but they still all sound like they're coming from the same artist. I'm not too familiar with Albarn's work with Blur, but in Gorillaz, he's got an obvious love for Kinks-style melody and melancholy, which is one of the reasons I like this record. 

Thematically, Plastic Beach (as if the title didn't already hint at it) appears to be a statement about consumerism and the disposability of so much in modern culture. On "Some Kind of Nature," the collaboration with Lou Reed, ol' Lou sings, "Some kind of metal made up from glue / Some kind of plastic I could wrap around you / They need the eat / And they wear phony clothes." On the cool title track, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash sing, "It's a Casio on a plastic beach / It's a styrofoam deep-sea landfill / It's sort of made a computer speech / It's a Casio on a plastic beach." On "Rhinestone Eyes," plastic shows up yet again: "I'm a scary gargoyle on a tower / That you made with plastic power / Your rhinestone eyes are like factories far away."

Plastic Beach is long but never boring, unlike the interminable Joanna Newsom record. It's clever, inventive, and genre-bending, and Damon Albarn lets his guest stars successfully leave their marks while maintaining a cohesive feel and sound to the record.

Best song: "Stylo," the record's first single (most likely on the strength of soul legend Bobby Womack's vocals. Also: the Mark E. Smith song "Glitter Freeze," the most rocking song on the record, and "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach," because Snoop Dogg makes any song better.
Rotation: High
Deja Vu: The Who's Sell Out
I'd rather listen to: "Waterloo Sunset"
Grade: A-

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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